Former Arnprior hockey referee and volunteer found not guilty of attempted murder

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Arnprior – Former hockey referee, community volunteer and Civitan Bill Kirby was found not guilty of attempted murder of an Arnprior woman following a ruling held last Thursday in the Ontario Court of Justice.

His daughter, Tamara (Kirby) Dunfield, told the Leader the combative, sarcastic and belligerent man seen in court was a true demonstration of his character and not the image he had cultivated in Arnprior with decades of community involvement including being a founding member of the Arnprior Civitan Club, a member of the Optimist Club, the Lions Club and the local community policing board.

“People saw my dad as this great community leader,” she said. “They saw him as this leader when he helped start the Civitan Club or a hockey referee and a real gentleman. He was like a Jekyll and Hyde and those close to him knew who he really was.”

In his ruling, Justice Martin James said after Mr. Kirby stabbed his former lover, he appeared to realize what he had done and placed a 911 call from a remote area of a forest just outside of Arnprior.

The judge said when Mr. Kirby, then 72, led the woman into the wooded area on September 13, 2018, he purposely took a knife with him that was far less effective in causing greater damage than the one he left behind in his vehicle.

“If the defendant truly intended to murder the victim then why did he not take the knife that would have been more effective?” he questioned during the virtual hearing. “I have serious doubts that this meets the threshold of acting beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, the defendant called 911 after the victim started to lose consciousness because of the stab wound to her stomach and Mr. Kirby’s actions likely saved her life.”

Justice James recounted how the two individuals were involved in a relationship and had lived together but eventually lived in separate residences and it appeared the victim was in fact attempting to keep away from the defendant and did not want to pursue a course of reconciliation.

In the agreed upon facts leading up to the day the defendant attacked the victim the court heard Mr. Kirby and the victim would get together sometimes during her 30-minute lunch break and on that day he drove them to a secluded area off Gunsmith Road in McNab Braeside, approximately 20 minutes from the victim’s place of work.

Justice James read the victim’s account when she said the defendant put his hand on her shoulder and told her “today’s your day to die you lying slut” and stabbed her in the stomach. At one point he left her and returned to stab her a second time within a 90-minute time frame. The court heard that the victim pleaded with the defendant not to do this and things could be worked out.

On that day, the defendant had a recording device in his pocket. A 40-minute audio recording that was submitted as evidence captures Mr. Kirby trying to take his own life, calling 911 for help and the victim begging to not be left alone in the bushes. The recording appears to have started after the second alleged stabbing, but it remains unclear if it was started intentionally or not.

Given all the evidence, Justice James said Assistant-Crown Attorney Caitlin Downing met the threshold of finding Mr. Kirby guilty of assault, kidnapping and issuing death threats, but not of attempted murder.

A sentencing date will be set where Mr. Kirby faces the potential of a lengthy jail sentence.

This is on top of an additional sentences he faces.

He had previously been found guilty in November 2020 of two counts of assault, one count of sexual assault, another count of indecent assault and for pointing a firearm in another matter. The charges involve two victims dating back between 1974 and 2001.

He was found guilty of rape (sexual assault) and forced anal rape (considered an indecent act at the time).

In those instances, both the defendant and victims took the stand to testify. The judge felt both victims provided sincere, genuine and non-exaggerated statements. The victims showed discomfort while Mr. Kirby was at times combative, sarcastic and belligerent towards both the victims and the Crown and this demeanor likely did not help his case. 

True character Revealed

The way her father came across on the witness stand came as no surprise to his daughter. She is anxious for the case to conclude and said her father’s behaviour on the stand is his true nature and not the image of a community volunteer he cultivated over decades. She described the legal system flawed in areas.

“I feel so sorry for all the victims and their families,” she said. “I was so angry and so disappointed from the very start when Lauzon (Justice of the Peace Julie Lauzon) let him out on bail and he was free to go about his business in Arnprior. Every day the victims, their family members and their friends had to be in town and worry about bumping into him.

“He should have stayed in jail where he belongs instead of being free to walk around in the community where he tried to murder someone and assault others,” she said. “I would have like to see all four charges against him, but he will go to jail for a long time and he will have time to think about all the hurt and pain he has caused to so many people.”